Why EYFS isn’t just child’s play

Cathy Graham, Headteacher at Wellfield Infant and Nursery School and Nicola Blatchly- Lewis, Alliance for Learning’s Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) SCITT lead and qualified EYFS Ofsted Inspector, explore why it’s important to get the balance between teaching and play.

Cathy explains:

Albert Einstein once said that ‘play is the highest form of research’ and during my time as a teacher and headteacher, also acting in various EYFS advisory roles, I see this in action daily. I strongly believe that quality of teaching and learning in the EYFS depends on three key things above all:Cathy G

  • The relationships between staff, the children and their families to encourage learning and develop a nurturing environment that improves engagement among children
  • The environment – in respect of how open ended the resources are and how accessible they are to the children
  • The staff’s understanding of their role in supporting learning as there is a fine line between supporting and interfering. The best EYFS practitioners know this and get the balance just right.

Children need time to explore, to experiment and to test out their ideas. If we direct children too much or step in too early, learning opportunities are diminished.

EYFS is so important because you are preparing children for their future learning and successes.  As a teacher this often means you are supporting a child at a moment in time, but as you help them explore, you are really developing the foundations for literacy and mathematics, communication and independence.

Nicola continues:

If you are a teacher or support staff colleague new to the early years’ environment, it can take a bit of adjustment, especially if you have been working with older children.

Moving to an environment where children are leading their own learning and developing real skills around Nicolaindependence and the essential characteristics of effective learning can be a big change. Supporting each child so that their individual learning needs are met with their own activities is important.  It’s just as important to be flexible, so that you can follow a child’s unique interests.

Parents and carers also need to understand that children in EYFS learn by playing and exploring, being active and creative both indoors and outside. Through this play, a whole host of imaginative contexts for children to learn about themselves, their peers and the world around them are provided.  One moment of sustained play can give children multiple developmental experiences at once. By recognising this, they can be supportive at home and encourage their child to explore further.


To find out more about our EYFS courses, including an Introduction to EYFS on 14 October at Wellfield Infant and Nursery School, visit:

This is a great opportunity to work with other professional colleagues and engage in a dialogue about pedagogy and practice.


Alliance for Learning
Cavendish Road, Bowdon
Altrincham WA14 2NL
Proud to part of the Bright Futures Education Trust